When It’s More Than A Speech Delay

We were first time parents, sure. I’ll give you that. But, between my two brothers, I had celebrated milestones for 5 babies. If I can’t tell you ages, I can surely show you pictures for at least a few of their first steps, solids, and maybe even words. 

Milestone Max 

Max met all of the first year milestones with gusto. When he walked at 10 months, I thought for sure we had a super hero on our hands. Right at a year, Max had a lip and tongue tie revision. He had never had trouble with nursing or bottles, but when it came time for table food, everything just fell out of his month. We first went to occupational therapy, then had a lip and tongue tie revision, then back to occupational / feeding therapy. 

In a few months, Max “graduated” from feeding therapy and we were good to go. But, in the mean time, I had noticed that unlike the other kiddos his age, Max was not waving, clapping, or pointing. He would use our hands to do those motions, but would not use his own. Since we were already seeing an occupational therapist whom we loved, we stayed on. Max continued occupational therapy that then focused less on feeding and more on fine motor / mimicking peers and adults. He most certainly did not need OT for gross motor skills, as those have always surpassed his age. Remember, my super hero walked at 10 months! 

Talk to me, baby! 

Sometime in the time period between starting OT for more than feeding therapy, we also picked up speech. Max was about 14 months old at this time. He babbled just fine, and PERFECTLY loud, but there were no words. There were no approximations. So, we did speech and OT twice a week. We definitely saw improvements. We also put Max in a mother’s day out program. We thought for sure that the therapy coupled with the toddler interaction would jump start his speech. Our friends and family members told us that boys are slower. We heard story after story about babies going to bed with little speech and waking up asking for milk. My mom told me about my brothers delayed speech and assured me that they turned out just fine. 

But, at our 18 month pediatrician appointment, he did not have the requisite amount of words that he should. I do not remember the number exactly and I could probably google it, but let’s just say that when our pediatrician asked if he had X amount of words, I distinctly remember my jaw dropping. “NO, he does not have close that many.” She reassured us and told us that by the time he turned 2, he would have that many and more! 

It was at that moment that I knew we had a bigger problem. “What if he does not have that many and for sure does not have more by 2?”

So, we discussed our options. We would continue with speech and OT, but we would also get on the waiting list for a developmental pediatrician just in case. The wait for the developmental pediatrician was 9 months. Our thorough pediatrician reassured us that none of these moves needed to be made until he was 2 and that she was confident that his speech would improve. But I just knew. 

We continued speech and OT, but we did get on the list for the developmental pediatrician. And thank GOD we did. Thank God we have a pediatrician who is a mama and knows that sometimes mama knows. Or even if it was not just because I had a gut feeling, even if she was confident that Max would wake up one morning and talk, she knew that it would make me feel better. 

At 2, Max was doing better at communicating but still had ZERO words. He could approximate “go,” but had no real words. No mama. No dada. No nothing. 

Shortly after Max turned 2, we had more clarity on the issues we were dealing with and were able to change our therapy plan around for him. He just turned 2.5 last week and we are FLOURISHING. He has new words every day, he can almost count to 10 (5-8 are a little shaky), and now waves, points, and claps . . . almost always for himself. 🙂 

Trust your mama gut 

I am telling you all of this to say: trust your mama gut. Just because you love the therapist does not mean that particular therapy is best for your babe. Just because it is not quite time to worry does not mean that you should not worry. Express your worries. Remember that your pediatricians and therapists want the best outcomes for your babies too. 

Max has more than a speech delay. I am glad we took all the right steps, but I am even happier I listened to myself. Sure, he may have done just fine if we had not done anything further. But, Max is flourishing where he is, and I think my mama gut can take some credit. 

Rebecca Autin
Rebecca is an attorney by day and a toddler wrangler by night. She is a product of divorced parents and grew up in both Thibodaux and Franklin, Louisiana. Rebecca attended Loyola University of New Orleans and Southern University Law Center. Rebecca married her high school bestie in 2012. Quinton and Rebecca went through months of infertility before giving birth to Maxwell Lincoln in 2015. In 2016, they were surprised by a baby boy due in June 2017. But, in February 2017, they suffered with incompetent cervix and delivered sweet Theodore Paul too soon. In October 2018, after an incredibly difficult pregnancy, a cerclage, and a whole bunch of bedrest, Fitzgerald Joseph was born -- a happy, healthy, and perfect rainbow. If you can't find Rebecca, you can summon her with pot of freshly brewed coffee or look for her in Target or behind the kitchen island where she is hiding from her kids with a very generous pour of red.


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